I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village.

John Lennon

It was almost five years ago when Chris suddenly passed away.  Since then my life has changed — yet remains much the same.

Looking for a picture of her on this occasion, I found one from our trip to England and Wales with our friends James and Nicky just weeks before she died.  That was the last time she saw her mother Cathy.  She posed next to a statue of John Lennon we had found in a Liverpool street.  Gazing at the photo I can’t help but imagine the two of them having a conversation somewhere. Chris could win over anybody.

In December 1980 I was driving from graduate school in California to an unknown future in New York City.  At nighttime in the middle of Nebraska I heard on the radio that John had been shot in front of the Dakota apartment building.  This made me wonder: How could I go there now?  John was an early idol of mine, along with Bob Dylan and all the other artists that have drawn me here since my youth.

I came anyway, followed by Chris several years later.  Nearly 40 years after my arrival I imagine her with me, walking the Greenwich Village streets we both loved.  Like John she left us far too soon.  But I doubt I’ll regret spending the rest of my time in the city that became our final home.

Lamenting the 2016 Elections

All along I had that sinking feeling about the 2016 elections, although my rational side was drawn to sophisticated analytics that put Hillary Clinton’s probability of winning the United States presidency as high as greater than 99%; the Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the Senate looked nearly as good. Well, garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Even if the national polling was acceptable by showing Hillary consistently ahead — she did lead in the popular vote, after all — the state-by-state data was clearly flawed. Donald Trump took most of the battleground states and then some, embarassing pundits who tended to believe that Latinos rather than blue-collar whites were underrepresented in the polls.

So the Democratic candidate has won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential contests but only won the Electoral College, and hence the election itself, in four of them. The Republicans sure seem lucky. But this at least allows me and like-minded Americans to inform the rest of the world that most of us voted for Clinton. For I can think of few people more dangerously ill-suited to this most-powerful and prestigious office than the Donald. Often ignorant yet never in doubt, boorish, petulant, misogynistic, racist, and, to me, on the wrong side of history on issue after issue, he appears capable of untold mayhem in partnership with the current Republican-controlled U.S. Congress. To hope, against all the evidence, that he with his cohort of mean has-beens and crackpots will betray his wrathful base of supporters and govern as a pragmatic moderate is whistling past the graveyard. I am filled with dread.

When this era is chronicled by historians of the future, I doubt that much of the recent liberal and conservative intellectualizing will survive. If the country was so gripped by anti-establishment sentiment, then why did every conservative establishment Republican senator win reelection? If working-class white males were enraged because they had been the victims of globalization, how come their black and Latino brethren were not? Were Trump’s followers truly convinced that he would “drain the swamp” of corporate corruption in Washington when he never released his tax returns to the public (since he has evidently gamed the system to his own enrichment for years)?  Was Hillary, with all of her achievements and qualifications, such a flawed candidate when so many of the accusations against her were the product of obvious political witch-hunts and easily debunked conspiracy theories?

Anti-Trump Demonstration in Washington Square, New York

No, I believe that Trump — with his inept campaign and all of his gaffes — would have soundly beaten Bernie Sanders and probably Joe Biden too, because he alone was ruthless in tapping the white resentment that has simmered during Barack Obama’s two terms as president. It is hardly a coincidence that each of this demagogue’s favorite targets has an alien face on it: illegal immigration (Latin-American); terrorism and refugees (Arab and South Asian); free trade (East Asian). On Tuesday, to the motto of “we’re taking our country back,” white, small-town, nativist America got its revenge on multiracial, urban, cosmopolitan America, as the demographic and cultural change personified by our first African-American president found its perfect nemesis. The hopeful enthusiasm that propelled Obama to the White House is vanquished by the spiteful energy of Trumpism. And Hillary seemed to inherit all of the hatred toward Obama but little of the love. Our nation has become increasingly tribal like the South, where the vast majority of whites are Republicans and most minorities are Democrats.

Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that so many mainstream Republican voters, including educated white women, voted for Trump as if he were no different than John McCain and Mitt Romney. Just eight years after the disastrous end to the last Bush administration, how can one not conclude that white people are always willing to give the Republican Party another chance to destroy the country?

I ended my previous piece (“The Twilight of G.O.P. Cynicism?” from May 14) with this: “Only if they get the drubbing at the polls they badly deserve will the Republicans begin to reinvent themselves as a legitimate national party.” A week before the election they appeared to face that reckoning. Now, with their unexpected control of the executive and both legislative branches of the federal government, they have learned that pandering to the basest sentiments of the white electorate is a reliable path to victory. White-male dominance of the U.S. is assured for the foreseeable future, probably with terrible consequences.

The Twilight of G.O.P. Cynicism?

Donald Trump When He Was Down and Out

Donald Trump When He Was Down and Out

About two years have passed since my last post, and I’ve got much updating to do. Remarkable trips (several that featured skiing) to Eastern, Central and Western Europe, the North American West, Central America and especially India come foremost to mind. All of this travel was interrupted for a period by radiation and hormone treatment for prostate cancer, which I remain somewhat reticent about.

But shame on me for using that as an excuse to lie low and, among my other sins of omission, neglecting to report on the demise of Health Republic of New York, the insurance co-operative I highlighted in May 2014 while praising the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Federal and state regulators closed H.R.N.Y. down in late 2015 as swelling financial losses pointed to near-certain insolvency. In my good fortune, I was able to enroll more or less seamlessly in a comparable plan from Oscar last December.

One must wonder if the authorities really expected such start-up healthcare insurers to be anything but unprofitable for a long time. Whatever the case, hope of sustaining the troubled co-ops wilted quickly in an era when congressional Republicans have voted over and over again to eviscerate or even repeal Obamacare. While they appear to loathe the president’s signature legislation as much as Captain Ahab hated Moby Dick, most galling of all is their total failure to propose a viable alternative.

Yet this is just one instance of what I can only describe as vile political cynicism, which I believe has disgusted Americans across the political spectrum. Some other noteworthy examples include:

Allegedly responsible budget proposals pairing massive entitlement cuts with large hikes in military expenditures, crowned by tax reductions for the richest people and entities — which by most historical evidence would produce ever-greater deficits (along with more social despair);

Feeble denials of climate change, despite mounting proof, with statements ranging from the evasive (“I’m not a scientist”) to the ludicrous (humans cannot be responsible because “God’s still up there”);

Strict regulations governing abortion clinics purported to safeguard women’s health, but which in practice deny millions access to safe abortions by forcing many clinics’ closure;

Voter-identification laws billed as fraud prevention that disproportionately impact minorities and others liable to support Democratic candidates, when documented cases of voter fraud are quite scarce and voter turnout is shamefully poor.

I could go on and on with other illustrations, but the last one strikes me as uniquely obnoxious because of the decades of painful sacrifices made to secure voting rights for African Americans down South and elsewhere. It also undermines our moral authority to criticize the sham regimes of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, and other antagonists on the world stage.

Escalating Republican extremism and hypocrisy have turned me into a Democrat by default, one who couldn’t bring himself to back a G.O.P. candidate under almost any circumstances. It might come as a surprise to those who know me, but I have never considered myself a political person except in an abstract sense. Sure, I believe in liberal democracy because it seems a relatively benign ideology, less apt to promote misery than the rest. Capitalism, to the extent that it’s managed well enough to unleash human potential without too much degradation of nature and society, is fine by me.

Before emigrating from Canada in 1979 (to attend graduate school in California at the age of 22), I had never voted in a state-sanctioned election. Only after I became naturalized as a United States citizen more than 20 years later did I join the electorate here. My memories of specific political events during that period are vague, although I recall leaning toward a second presidential term for George (H.W.) Bush against Bill Clinton in 1992. But Bush 41’s nomination of the right-wing Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court always rubbed me the wrong way; in hindsight, it warned of greater perfidy to come.

Donald Trump Masks Destined to Become Halloween Best-Sellers

Donald Trump Masks Destined to Become Halloween Best-Sellers

Today we find ourselves in the midst of an election season unlike any other I have ever seen. Donald Trump, a vain, outspoken populist (more than a few would say offensive, racist and sexist) billionaire with no governing experience and disjointed policy stances has upended the party elite and now reigns as the presumed Republican presidential nominee. His likely opponent is Hillary Clinton, a moderate Democrat who has served as a U.S. secretary of state and senator from New York (not to mention first lady), with all the accumulated baggage and enmity such a long, prominent career might bring.

If Hillary was ever the inevitable candidate, the Donald was anything but. Lately, friends and relatives from other countries have taken to asking me how this could happen, including what pundits depict as a “civil war” within and an “unraveling” or “rupture” of the Republican Party.

The particular narrative I’ve embraced goes back to the great political realignment that began with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the mid-1960s under Democratic president Lyndon Johnson. Richard Nixon’s opportunistic “Southern Strategy” then promoted the defection of segregationists to the Republican side, and gradually evolved into a national scheme to foster and exploit resentment in the white masses toward so-called liberal culture, racial- and ethnic-minority dependence on government aid, and so on. From the perspective of spending, gun-rights absolutists and evangelical Christians who oppose reproductive freedom and gay equality (to name a few groups) are pretty cheap to please.

But in the process the Republicans alienated most blacks and latinos, having also fashioned a voting bloc that turned out to be an awkward fit with their traditional patrons: big business and the wealthy, largely averse to regulation and taxation. Hence, the Democrats were left with a less-affluent but fairly stable and demographically sound coalition of minorities and progressive (often urban) whites.

The first major eruption of the Republican base in this period came with the rise of the Tea Party, which followed the bailout of our financial sector at the end of George (W.) Bush’s presidency and the start of Barack Obama’s. The movement’s implied position, that banks should neither be regulated nor rescued when they failed, sounds like a recipe for economic disaster. Nevertheless, the Tea Partiers’ rage was clearly leveled at self-proclaimed conservatives who blinked instead of letting destructive market forces do their work. They also had a problem with immigration, and a telltale fetish regarding the facts of President Obama’s birth and the legitimacy of his election.

While mainstream Republican chiefs were often tormented — If not ousted — by these rebels, together they enjoyed the electoral successes powered by a wrathful rank and file, particularly in the mid-term congressional balloting of 2010 and 2014. They also gained dominance of our state governments, despite losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests, and barely paying lip service to easing the distress of countless loyal supporters. What good has supply-side “Reaganomics” done the middle class since the 1980s?

There is a debate as to whether the blue-collar white males at the core of this upheaval have turned increasingly nativist because their economic stature has suffered under globalization, or rather as a bigoted reaction to the rising prominence of minorities, symbolized by the president himself. Let’s not ignore the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, either, and those since. I suspect the answer is a combination of the above. Regardless, the G.O.P. these days is for all practical purposes anti-immigration.

This development is only one of the concessions the party leadership has made to placate its restive base. According to horror-genre lore, the vampire cannot enter your house unless he’s invited in. Well, by indulging “birthers” and others of that ilk, the Republicans opened the front door to Donald Trump. Yet even as they were wringing their hands over his primary victories, G.O.P. senators resolved to deny the eminently qualified Merrick Garland a vote to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Antonin Scalia. Few would deny that the Obama administration has faced an unprecedented level of obstructionism.

The angry followers of Candidate Trump respond to Republican cynicism differently than I do. They probably don’t mind tax cuts for the affluent, or care much about global warming, the rights of non-heterosexuals or voter disenfranchisement. On the other hand, after decades of growth during which the lion’s share of the benefits went to those atop the economic ladder, I doubt they rejoice when the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan urge privatizing social security and “voucherizing” Medicare. Trump, however, electrifies them with promises to construct a wall along our border with Mexico, prevent Muslims from entering the country, and put an end to unfair competition from China. With the run of establishment favorite Jeb Bush going down in flames after the South Carolina primary, the future of Republicans talking tough yet endorsing the latest trade agreement anyway is very uncertain.

The hyper-ambitious Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest rival, cultivated an outsider persona but appeared to me as simply the most radical version of the recent Republican style, the cynicism included. Even though Cruz primarily attracted the religious right in its crusade against the courts’ legalization of gay marriage, he nearly matched Trump in his zeal for deporting illegal immigrants and checking the Muslim menace. But when the brainy Cruz spouted disingenuous nonsense, like vowing to help small business by closing the federal Environment Protection Agency (more probably a pitch for campaign funds from the Koch Brothers), Trump’s ill-informed falsehoods rang honest by comparison.

Anger on the Left: My Favorite Bumper Sticker of the Election

Anger on the Left: My Favorite Bumper Sticker of the Election

(Bernie Sanders, I think, represents a more-legitimate if narrow channeling of national anger at evils such as growing income inequality, plus the threat to our society posed by fossil fuels, free trade and an insatiable banking industry. Beyond the electability issue, the proposals offered by this irate 74-year-old Jewish “democratic socialist” often match his Republican counterparts’ in their implausibility.

Having worked as a securities analyst for decades, I can attest that most Wall Street employees are not greedy oligarchs. The $18 trillion U.S. economy requires a large, sophisticated financial sector; in many respects ours is the envy of the world, but it must be regulated appropriately. At times Sanders sounds like he would prefer to demolish it than reform it. Further, recent analyses have revealed that segments of his mostly white constituency detest not just Hillary Clinton but President Obama too, and could well favor Trump come November.)

Lest I give the wrong impression, I would consider Donald Trump in the White House a grave peril to our country and the world — yet it’s difficult for me to fathom the American public rewarding a mountebank like him with the nation’s highest office. Still, we ought to be grateful that he exposed both the G.O.P. establishment’s cynicism and the bigoted extremism of the party base it cultivated, making it tough to backtrack.

There’s no doubt that additional power- and job-hungry politicos will jump on the Trump bandwagon, even after disparaging him repeatedly on the public record. But only if they get the drubbing at the polls they badly deserve will the Republicans begin to reinvent themselves as a legitimate national party.

Obama Cares!

In late March, I received a letter notifying me that United Healthcare had discontinued my existing Oxford health-insurance policy, whose contract year was set to end on August 31. Because of the Affordable Care Act – commonly known as Obamacare – I would have to choose from new Oxford products or other legally compliant plans offered on New York State’s health-insurance exchange. The A.C.A. made sole-proprietor and small-group policies for businesses owned by a married couple effectively obsolete.

Tempted as you might be to take this as yet another horror story of healthcare reform, please read on first.

No fan of Obamacare, my health-insurance broker advised me to keep my Oxford policy as long as possible and switch to an exchange plan at the end of the summer. (The termination of my current policy before the calendar year was over is a so-called qualifying event, permitting me to enroll outside of the customary period.) But I decided to register on the New York State of Health website right away and start researching what was on offer, aware of the imminent March 31 cutoff to sign up. Here is some of what I learned about the Health Republic New York EssentialCare Platinum Plan:

The monthly premium for me is $515.81 in 2014, compared to $520.64 (through August 31) for my Oxford Exclusive Metro Plan/Liberty Network, both of which are restricted to in-network providers;

The deductible is zero and the maximum of out-of-pocket expenses is $2,000, versus a $2,000 deductible and a $3,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs under the Oxford policy;

The copayments to visit a primary-care physician and a specialist are $15 and $35, respectively, compared to $25 and $50 for the Oxford plan;

The copay for a three-month supply of my costliest asthma medication – Advair Diskus (100/50) – is $90, and I could get it filled at the neighborhood Walgreens, versus the $275.55 I last paid OptumRx, United Healthcare’s captive pharmacy-benefit manager, to have it dispensed through the mail.

President Obama Sings the Affordable Care Act Into Law

President Obama Signs the Affordable Care Act Into Law

By the time I had contacted my most important doctors, and found that all of them accepted Health Republic insurance, it was early April and well past the enrollment deadline. I wanted to wring my broker’s neck for not advising me to switch at the earliest opportunity. But a fortuitous email from New York State of Health soon appeared in my inbox, alerting me that because I had begun my registration before March 31 I was entitled to select a policy on the exchange by as late as April 15. Without delay, I terminated the Oxford plan and joined Health Republic, effective May 1.

It is premature to review the new platinum policy, although my limited experience with it (several interactions with customer service and one prescription filled) has been satisfactory. But, on paper, the benefits of Obamacare to those like me who have lost sleep from health-insurance insecurity are great. I realize that some people have been inconvenienced and even disadvantaged by the A.C.A., yet strongly believe they are far outnumbered by those of us who have gained. To the disgruntled I say: try being a little more charitable. I do not begrudge the beneficiaries of Medicare because my late wife paid into the program throughout her career only to receive nothing back. But I do resent the Republican/conservative “messaging” to the effect that people who had trouble getting health insurance under the old regime somehow did not deserve it. And if the doomsayers are correct about Obamacare, why hasn’t it wreaked havoc in Massachusetts, which adopted a similar (indeed, seminal) program years ago?

Most of all, I salute President Obama, who evidently cared enough to spend precious political capital and stake his legacy on reforming a deeply unfair and dysfunctional healthcare system. The A.C.A. may be far from perfect, but for tens of millions of Americans it is a vast improvement over what we had to endure before.

My Huckleberry Friend

Chris and I on Kauai's Kalalau Trail, 2007

Chris and I on Kauai’s Kalalau Trail, 2007

It is a new year but I still don’t feel remotely ready to write about losing Chris, who passed away without warning less than four months ago. Yet something familiar that I heard over the holidays has compelled me to begin. It was the song “Moon River” from the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, making hits for Andy Williams and other crooners.

Moon River, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way

Despite our lives together in various Manhattan apartments, Chris and I were little like Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly and George Peppard’s Paul Varjak, just as the film was quite different from the Truman Capote novella that inspired it. We were married over 15 years ago in Savannah, Georgia, having met by sheer accident on the island of Saint John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on July Fourth more than a decade earlier.

Both born in the late 1950s, we really didn’t come of age until such innocently romantic songs were already considered passé. Still, “Moon River,” whose lyrics were penned by that native son of Savannah Johnny Mercer, always seemed right for us. It captured the essence of our relationship, and became our song.

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after that same rainbow’s end, waiting, round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me

For a quarter of a century Chris and I lived an adventure, sort of like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. My “Huckleberry Friend” is gone now, and I feel lost myself, but I will always cherish her in my memories.

In Memoriam: Christine A. Clark

Chris on Her 50th Birthday

Chris on Her 50th Birthday

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind …

William Wordsworth

Christine Ann Clark, 54, died of cardiac arrest in the early-morning hours of September 22, 2013, in Manhattan. Born in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in south Florida, Chris moved to Manhattan from Houston in the late 1980s to pursue her advertising career and be closer to her future husband, Gary Vineberg. A University of Florida Gator and Zeta Tau Alpha alumnus, she served as an account executive at several prestigious agencies, retiring from Ogilvy Health World in 2008. For more than three decades, Chris worked tirelessly on campaigns for a variety of clients, including airlines and pharmaceutical companies, becoming an expert in women’s healthcare along the way. Never one to be idle, she later joined Corcoran Group, launching a second career as a real-estate salesperson. Chris was passionate about her city and Greenwich Village home, working on her building’s roof garden. She could often be spotted in the Village shopping, picking up a Patsy’s pizza, or sipping a frozen margarita with her husband during Sunday brunch. She and Gary traveled the globe together, counting Cambodia, Ecuador and South Africa among their many destinations. She always looked forward to her annual “3B” reunion trip with college roommates Jan Healy and Joanne Gelfand, a tradition that lasted 30 years. A few weeks ago, the couple, joined by Chris’s mother, explored northwestern England and north Wales with local friends they had met in Fiji. Her creative side was generous, as she would shower family and friends with photo montages and videos on special occasions. She enjoyed socializing — “Build Me Up Buttercup” never failed to get her up to dance – as well as skiing and working out at the gym. Overflowing with love and good cheer, Chris was cherished by so many and will be sorely missed. She is survived by her husband Gary, her mother, Catherine Clark of Dallas, her aunt Janet Mather of Denver, and her aunt Joyce Clark of San Francisco, as well as other relatives and countless friends. A service will be held in her memory at the East End Temple, 245 East 17th Street, at noon on Tuesday, September 24. In lieu of flowers, please remember Chris with donations to research and treatment of heart disease or other worthy causes.

Smoked Meat Wars

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.
–Attributed (spuriously) to Mark Twain

I’ve always thought the above quote’s connection to Twain was dubious because he, an inveterate traveler, knew something about the winter weather in Montreal. But, no stranger to irony, Twain might have appreciated my latest truly profound observation: The best Montreal smoked meat I ever ate was in New York City.

If I didn’t offend my lantzmen up north with the last post, “Beer and Hockey” (June 22, 2013), this ought to do the trick. Decades ago, visitors from Montreal started a tradition of bringing me bagels and Schwartz’s smoked meat. Make no mistake: I relish a hefty pastrami sandwich from Katz’s on Houston Street or the 2nd Avenue Deli (with two locations, oddly, neither on Second Avenue); and although I’m partial to the fluffier Montreal bagel over the Gotham variety, a toasted bialy with a schmear of cream cheese suits me best of all.

For the record, as I understand it, smoked meat is prepared with the whole brisket whereas pastrami is supposed to be made with the leaner beef navel or plate. But the more important difference to me is the unique mix of salt and spices used to cure the meat and how long it’s aged, which largely accounts for the great disparity between good and bad smoked meat and pastrami.

Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen, on Boulevard Saint Laurent in Montreal since 1928, claims to marinate its briskets “with a secret blend of fine herbs and spices” for 10 days, using no chemicals or preservatives. Now, I do savor the club rolls (cold cuts grilled on a bun) at Lester’s on Avenue Bernard and the Snowdon Deli on Boulevard Decarie, even the scaled-down “Special” at Wilensky’s on Avenue Fairmont. But when it comes to smoked meat, the gold standard for me was always Schwartz’s.

Mile End's Lean Smoked Meat

Mile End’s Lean Smoked Meat

That was until my latest delivery, and the comparison with the product from Mile End Delicatessen on Hoyt Street in Brooklyn (with a sandwich shop on Bond Street in Manhattan). To be fair, the vacuum-packed, thinly shaved meat from Schwartz’s takeout annex was at a disadvantage from the start in a contest with the plump, freshly cut slabs of Mile End’s pricier artisan-style beef. In my imagination, this — certainly not the rubbery pink slices that pass for viande fumee at many Montreal restaurants — is what it must have tasted like in the 19th century. Rich in flavor and color, not a crumb of the six ounces of Mile End smoked meat survived our four-person taste test that Sunday evening.

Montrealer Noah Bermanoff opened Mile End in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn three and a half years ago, and quickly became somewhat of a sensation in the grueling New York City restaurant scene. Well done, Noah. Soon I’ll be ferrying your smoked meat up to friends and relatives in Montreal.

Disclosure: I’m a philistine in deli circles because, whether it’s pastrami, corned beef or smoked meat, I always order the leanest available and slather the sandwich with spicy New York-style mustard to ensure moistness. Any nutritionist will tell you that there’s ample fat in every bite (especially for someone with coronary artery disease).

Beer and Hockey

Oh, the joys of sports in June on high-definition television!

For the past few weeks I have shouted myself hoarse and disturbed my neighbors alternating between broadcasts of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League finals. On off days and nights there’s always baseball, tennis and golf to tide me over.

With LeBron James and the Miami Heat having repeated as N.B.A. champions in a tough seven-game contest against the San Antonio Spurs, I can now focus on the Stanley Cup matchup — currently tied at a couple of wins apiece — between two of the six original N.H.L. teams: the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins.

But I wonder if I would be writing this had I stayed in Montreal instead of moving to the United States. When I was a teenager I once gave my grandfather Max a lift to New York City, where he would stay at the men’s “Y” and take in a few operas. Couldn’t he satisfy his operatic cravings back home, I asked? No, he explained. “Canadians only care about beer and hockey.”

At the time that sentiment didn’t really bother me. During the 1960s and ‘70s the Montreal Canadiens hoisted the Stanley Cup no fewer than 11 times. As we fancied ourselves the world’s most enlightened hockey fans, my friends and I even chose second teams to cheer for. Mine was the Bruins, led by one Bobby Orr, whom a select few (myself included) consider the most talented player in N.H.L. history. For the record, this year I’m pulling for the Blackhawks. It just seems unfair to me that residents of a metro area about the same size as Montreal’s should have so many glamorous teams.

Lord Stanley's Cup of the N.H.L.

Lord Stanley’s Cup of the N.H.L.

Bostonians host baseball’s American League Red Sox, the National Football League Patriots, the N.B.A. Celtics and the Bruins, all of whom have been champions in recent memory. Montrealers have the Canadiens, who haven’t brought home the Cup in two long decades. The National League Montreal Expos left town in 2004 to be reincarnated as the Washington Nationals yet never won a World Series in 25 up-and-down years. Need I even mention the Alouettes of the threadbare Canadian Football League?

I can’t speak for Torontonians, who have the American League Blue Jays and N.B.A. Raptors along with those perennial N.H.L. losers, the Maple Leafs, but many men of my generation in Montreal live in an isolation of former glories. The Habs, as Les Canadiens are fondly known at home, play beneath 24 Stanley Cup banners hanging in the Centre Bell – “more championships than any other professional team,” a fan informed me on a recent Quebec trip. Not one to let a false claim go uncorrected, I pointed out that the New York Yankees boast 27 World Series titles. Despite their recent struggles, the Bronx Bombers are a good bet to win more. But the small-market Habs, I fear, might not be triumphant again while I’m still around.

On a more positive note, in a city where the sports sections of both French- and English-language dailies contain mostly hockey stories – even in August – younger fans appear to have broader interests. After all, there are few things more beautiful than basketball’s three-point shot, like the one Ray Allen made in game six to quash the Spurs’ near-certain victory in the N.B.A. finals. Up there too is great baseball defense, notably the well-turned double play, as my late uncle Sonny would tell you, together with the long passing game in professional and college football.

Still, I understand that a lot of my compatriots to the north aren’t interested in the Stanley Cup finals because no team based in a Canadian city is contending. That kind of parochialism I’m only too glad to have left behind.

Japan in Winter

Despite my best intentions, this seems to be turning into a travel-and-photography blog. I’ll always try to publish posts on other subjects, but if I fail (for a while) then so be it. I recently spent the better part of two weeks in Japan, a few days in historic Kyoto to adjust to the time difference (14 hours later than New York in February) and the rest on the northern island of Hokkaido. There were several reasons for this winter voyage: to enjoy the cultural delights of Japan’s former royal capital, which happened to be dusted by an unusual snowfall at the time; to experience the renowned powder skiing in the trees and bowls of Niseko and thereabouts; and to show my support for the Japanese people in the aftermath of a disastrous earthquake and tsunami two years ago.

Kyoto's Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shinto Shrine

Kyoto’s Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shinto Shrine

Kyoto’s pleasures include exquisite Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines, the Imperial Palace Park and the charming Gion (Geisha) district, as well as wonderful gardens and markets. I won’t provide a blow-by-blow of the visit, but an assortment of pictures is available on my photography website:

Niseko and other ski areas on Hokkaido have become an international destination because of the flakes that appear to fall continuously, thanks to the proximity of the Sea of Japan and cold winds from Siberia. (Sapporo, a charming mini-Tokyo in the snow, hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics.) The mountains’ top elevations are not particularly great – Fujiesque Mount Yotei reaches less than 6,300 feet high – and the terrain is hardly steep enough to satisfy most extreme skiers. But the combination of untracked pow and neatly spaced trees is pretty palatable to an old warrior like me. To see a compilation of some of my favorite runs, play this YouTube video: